A Constitution bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to produce files pertaining to the appointment of former IAS officer Arun Goel as the Election Commissioner on November 19. The court’s direction came while it was hearing a batch of petitions seeking an independent mechanism to appoint Election Commissioners to the Chief Election Commission.
During the hearing today, the court remarked that the Centre should not have gone ahead with Goel’s appointment since the matter was being heard by the court. The bench then asked Attorney General R Venkataramani to produce the files, including the appointment letter issued to him tomorrow.
“…We would like you to produce the files relating to the appointment of this officer. So that if you are in the right, as you claim, that there is no hanky-panky, then there is nothing to fear,” Live Law quoted Justice KM Joseph, who is heading the bench, as saying. The court further observed that it would like to see what mechanism is being followed.
Appearing for the petitioner, advocate Prashant Bhushan said that Goel was given Voluntary Retirement Service (VRS) on November 17, and his appointment notified on November 21.
“The latest appointment of Mr.Arun Goel has been made by giving him voluntary retirement. Anybody appointed as Election Commissioner is a retired person. But he (Goel) was a sitting Secretary in the government,” Bhushan argued in court, adding that while the court heard the arguments pertaining to the case on Thursday, he was given voluntary retirement on Friday, appointment order was issued on Saturday or Sunday. “And Monday he started working,” Bhushan said
Bhushan further said that the post had been lying vacant since May and he had even filed an application seeking interim orders against the appointment.
Justice Joseph observed that in the event of availing VRS, an employee is required to give a notice regarding the same three months in advance. Bhushan claimed that he had his doubts on whether the said notice was issued at all and urged the court to ask for records from the Centre.
“What is the mechanism by which this officer was picked up Mr.Attorney General? Can it be made when the matter was being considered by this Court?The appointment was made when the matter was being considered by this Court. When there is an application against the appointment, when that matter is being heard by the Constitution Bench, it would have been more appropriate …”, Justice Joseph stated, according to Live Law.
The Attorney General, however, objected to Bhushan’s submissions and said that there was no design behind Goel’s appointment as EC. He also contended that there was no injunction order against Goel’s appointment to the post. The court, conceding the AG’s argument, reminded him that there was, however, an application that was being heard by the court.
We are not sitting in judgment over the appointment. But we would like to know. This will be an eye-opener. If everything is hunky-dory, everything was going on smoothly as you claim, you have nothing to fear,” Justice Joseph said, adding that the court was only asking the Centre to produce the files unless it has any “legitimate objection”.
The matter is scheduled to be heard by the Constitution bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday.